How to Write Much Faster Today?
Dictation, the transformation of human speech into text, “speech-to-text” has evolved a great deal in recent years. Worth a try. Even for someone who has tried it before and it didn’t work well then. Or, you may not have done it well because it’s also something you need to learn and practice. Like everything else, from walking to speaking and typing.
I recently wrote an article about 13 brilliant, very useful applications. Especially great if someone is trying to earn a passive income. If you are a small investor, freelancer, or other busy person doing creative work, entrepreneur. (Read: 13 Brilliant Free Apps for Investors, Freelancers, and Busy People.) I would like to detail an important item from this list.
Fifteen years ago I thought it would be awesome. It wasn’t. The apps were too clunky, too expensive, and their accuracy was abysmal. I abandoned dictation for many years (Source: “5,000 Words Per Hour. A Guide to Writing Faster, Better & Smarter” by Chris Fox)
Sometime around 2012, computer software that translated the human speech into text underwent a great development. They finally became usable. The error rate has dropped to a few percents. And, under ideal conditions, it is said to be around one percent only. Several authors claim that they can dictate three times as fast as typing on a keyboard. This is because a person can pronounce about 120-140 words per minute, but can usually type less than 40.
What Does It Take to Write Faster?
Who writes how much depends on a lot of factors. There are good and bad typists (I may be among the mediocre ones). Many people start with two fingers and they take years to get to a higher level. It also depends on the language. For example, the length of the words, the special letters, and punctuation. Also matters a lot whether your internet connection is good, stable.
More differences in dictation happen because of the software used, the microphone, and background noise. How we pronounce words, how we articulate. But also how much we sort out our thoughts. Do we know what we want to write? Or are we hesitant? How much routine do we have in dictation?
My Experience about How To Write Much More
For now, I think I can write at least twice as fast as if I were typing. Only twice because a lot needs to be improved and edited afterward. (The good news is, I can still make a lot of progress.) This is also because I rarely dictate English, the language which works best in this technology. I don’t use a special microphone, expensive software. Only a simple headset and free services.
Other authors wrote that it is not possible to switch from typing to dictation input overnight. I have experienced this too. This also needs to be learned, as text input with the keyboard. But the good thing about it is, that it was useful from the start. It can be faster than using the keyboard, also for the first time.
Which Dictation Apps Did I Use?
OK, we know now how to write faster. But which service, which app to choose? I worked first with Speechnotes, then with SpeechTexter. And, more recently with an application called Dictanote. (Also worth mentioning Voice Notebook on Android and Dictation.io on Chrome. They weren’t bad.) They all use Google Speech Recognition but produce different results, user experience.
I used Speechnotes for a long time on Android and later on a notebook in the Chrome browser. It is one of the best ones. Later, SpeechTexter proved to be better on a notebook (because of its punctuation commands). I didn’t like its mobile version, though. I experimented further.
How to Write E-mails with Your Voice?
My current favorite is Dictanote.co. It’s at least as accurate as the others and also offers a Chrome add-on called “Voice In” that lets you dictate on any website. This way, you can write your emails or forum posts in a flash, with dictation. (That is normally a task for “personal assistants”, like Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc.) Also, Dictanote can be installed in a separate window. That allows you to share the screen. This is extra useful for translations and data collection. (See the picture.)
But I may find something even better next month. Or, developers update the tried-and-tested applications and new versions will know more. (A good list of Android apps here.)
How to Write with Fewer Errors? The Accuracy Level
In my experience, in English and Spanish, the accuracy of the mentioned free applications can surge to 96-97 percent. But, in the case of a smaller European language, it is lower, between 90 to 95 percent. (But dictation is still very useful in this case, too.) The great advantage of the Google Dictation technique is that it works with dozens of languages.
Voice Recognition is a statistical model. You cant expect a 100% accuracy rate . But not to worry recognition is rate is good enough to use 🙂 Average accuracy of voice recognition is around 95% but may vary from person to person. The accuracy improves with better mike quality and lower noise in background–wrote Dictanote.co. (sic)
Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking is said to be the best dictation software on the market with the highest accuracy. In the best cases, near 99 percent. (It is also a personal assistant.) The software has a lot of fans, seems to be very good, but expensive. Plus, it only works in six common global languages. Unfortunately, in the basic, “home version” you can only use English and German. This is not enough for me, but for others, it may be the best solution.
How to Write about Dictation?
I also found and read some books on the subject.
- “Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter” by Monica Leonelle.
- “The Productive Author’s Guide to Dictation” by Cindy Grigg.
- “Write Better, Faster: How To Triple Your Writing Speed and Write More Every Day.” By Monica Leonelle
- “5,000 Words Per Hour. A Guide to Writing Faster, Better & Smarter” by Chris Fox
All are useful, though a little old (around 2015), and focus on Dragon Naturally Speaking software. But contain important experiences about any dictation. If you want to know more, begin with the first book. The writer describes how she switched in big part to dictation text recording. Also, how to write books dictating your text, which best practices to use. True, she made some more serious investments. She bought the expensive software, which cost about $140. The microphone she mentioned you find between $80 and $100. (I assume that the development of software and artificial intelligence will make special equipment futile in a few years.)
Your Mind is Important, Not Your Tongue
But fast text recording is worth nothing if you don’t know what to say. The recording is only one element of a complex creative process. Idea, material collection, planning, drafting, editing are at least as important. And even more.
“Get the outline right, you get the entire book right. This is true for non-fiction and articles, too”–wrote Monica Leonelle, author of many books.
So, dictation is not a magic potion that makes you the best writer at one blow. But a very useful and effective, productive tool.
How To Write With Your Voice? My Tips
Writing with dictation works well when I speak in a quiet room with a low background noise level. Not too slow and not too fast. I keep the microphone close, 2-4 inches (5-10 centimeters) from my mouth, and I try to speak clearly, articulate properly. Like when one speaks a foreigner who speaks the language at a beginner level. Not too quiet and not too loud either. (Unlike when we try to shout at others with a half-full mouth while drinking beer in a restaurant or pub.)
You need a reliable internet connection. I assume you need the proper processor and memory. (It already works on my 2-3-year-old devices.) If the results are not so good, experiment. For example, look for the microphone recording volume on your machine and push it up. Look for another mike or headset. For example, the simple headset I got for free with my phone a few years ago was pretty good. Some better than my notebook’s built-in microphone and more comfortable to use. Learn the “voice commands” or “punctuation commands” to put periods, commas, question marks, etc.
I’m thinking about buying a better microphone, but I don’t know which one I need and whether it’s worth it. Because I don’t know yet exactly how much accuracy depends on the software, how much on the internet connection, and how much on the hardware. I see little difference between the different cheap microphones. And I don’t know the more expensive semi-professional mikes yet.
Or would I rather buy an expensive Bluetooth headset that I can use to walk up and down the room or also to dictate in a park? A dilemma.
We live next to a busy street and my wife is often home, too. So, I need a microphone that filters out most background noise. A mike that is only sensitive to noise from one direction, which I speak from. These are called cardioid microphones. The cheapest one I found was around 35 US dollars, but the $70-$130 price range is more typical.
Conclusion–The Question Isn’t How to Write, But When to Start
Many authors argue that dictation is the future. In a few decades, we will hardly be able to write by hand. They may be right because it is a very efficient method, much better than the keyboard. Editing texts with voice commands in dictation software, on the other hand, is said to be a torture. So, don’t throw your keyboard away.
Remember, learning to dictate is a longer process. It can take weeks or months for you to be comfortable with this new method. But it seems definitely worth starting if you write a lot. Start today.
I wanted to try the dictation built into Windows 10, but I couldn’t install it. Not in any language, though I read through dozens of descriptions and troubleshooting. There is no dictation in the limited free version of the Braina software. So I couldn’t try it, but I might make another attempt. I don’t have any Apple product, so I’ll leave also the Siri test to someone else.)